Glossary of Cooking Terms

Aioli: A Provençal sauce made of garlic, olive oil, usually egg yolks, and seasonings. There are many variations, such as the addition of lemon juice or mustard. It is usually served at room temperature with seafood, especially fish soup.

Blanching: To enhance the color of vegetables, with minimal cooking (only the outermost layer is cooked). It is often used for vegetables that are going to be eaten raw or frozen for later use. Cook only a few seconds up to a minute in already boiling water. Shock the vegetable by straining it under cold water or dipping it in ice water to halt any further cooking.

Bocconcini: Small mozzarella cheeses the size of an egg. They can be bought at most well-stocked supermarkets.

Bouquet Garni: The bouquet garni (French for “garnished bouquet”) is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string to be cooked in a dish, but removed prior to consumption. I use fresh thyme, sage, parsley, rosemary, oregano and a dried bay leaf. I find it easier to put all ingredients in a cheesecloth or coffee filter tied up at the end.

Chorizo: It is important to differentiate between Spanish and Mexican Chorizo. Spanish Chorizo is a dried and cured sausage in a casing. It can be smoked or unsmoked, sweet or spicy and can be eaten raw. Pepperoni sausage in the US is a good substitute. Mexican Chorizo is a spicy ground meat sausage that is sold mostly fresh and uncooked. It is usually made of pork, highly seasoned and needs to be cooked before eating.

Crème Fraîche: A soured cream with a fat content of about 30% as compared to sour cream’s 20%. It is thicker, has a richer flavor and is less tangy than sour cream. It is used in sauces and soups because unlike sour cream it does not curdle when heated.

Egg Wash: A mixture of beaten eggs and a liquid (water or milk) which is brushed onto pastry, before baking.

Julienne (also referred as Alumette or Matchstick Cut): To julienne is to cut food items, usually vegetables, into long, thin strips around 1/16th to 1/8th  inch (2-3 mm) thick. A wider cut is called Batonnet (2 1/2  inches/6 cm).

Halloumi: A lightly salted hard cheese made from sheep or goat milk from the Middle East. It has a high-fat content, it will not melt when grilled or pan-fried even at high temperatures.

Harissa: A hot chili pepper paste originally from Tunisia. Its main ingredients are roasted red peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers, spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander seed or caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil for preservation. It is sold at well-stocked supermarkets and most Middle Eastern stores.

Herbes de Provence: Spice mix from the Provence, mostly thyme, oregano, marjoram (or rosemary) and winter savory (in French: Sarriette). Read more »

Kefalotyri: The Greek version of Halloumi, a lightly salted hard cheese made from sheep or goat milk. Does not melt.

Mezze: Also spelled Meze is a selection of small dishes served to accompany drinks or as appetizers before the main dish in the Near East and the Balkans.

Parboiling: Parboiling is usually used to partially cook an item to give it a head start. It will then be cooked another way such as braising, grilling, or stir-frying.

Pancetta: Italian bacon made of pork belly meat that is salt cured and spiced with black pepper and sometimes other spices. There are two basic types of Pancetta, the ″arrotolata” (rolled) and “stesa” (flat). The “arrotolata” is mainly used sliced as part of antipasti, the “stesa” is often used chopped as an ingredient in many recipes.

Persillade: A sauce or seasoning mix of parsley (French: persil) chopped together with garlic and seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. Read more »

Piri-Piri Sauce: A very hot chili sauce used as a seasoning or marinade. Prevalent in Angola and Mozambique it was brought to Europe by the Portuguese. The sauce is made from crushed African bird’s eye chili, citrus peel, onion, pepper, salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, paprika, pimiento, basil, oregano, and tarragon.

Ras-el-Hanout: A spice mix from North Africa, the name means “top of the shelf”, the best spice mix the shop has to offer. It is used in many savory dishes, sometimes rubbed on meat or fish, or stirred into couscous or rice. Ingredients used may include cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and dry turmeric. There is no exact composition of spices that make up ras el hanout.

Sauté or Panfry: To cook food in a small amount of oil or fat over relatively high heat. Used mostly to preserve the texture, moisture, and flavor. Ingredients are heated at once and cooked quickly.

Sofrito: A slowly sautéed pepper-garlic-tomato sauce used in the Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine. Read more »

Tagine (Tajine): A tagine or tajine is both the name of the dish and the glazed earthenware vessel in which the food is prepared in Morocco and Algeria. It is used for cooking and for serving. Read more »

Tahini: A paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds used in the Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. Tahini is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva. Because of tahini’s high oil content, it is best to keep it refrigerated.

Tapenade: A Provençal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. It can be served on its own but more than often it is used as seasoning. Read more »